Neosho High School (2023)
- Number of Students: 1,573
- Percent Eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch: 52.45%
- Percent of Limited English Proficient: 10.62%
- Percent of Special Education: 7.88%
***PROMISING PRACTICES SCHOOL***
At the start of the 2019-20 school year, Neosho High School completely reexamined the PLC practices in place following the appointment of new building leadership. While NHS has been involved in the professional learning community (PLC) process at least in some capacity for over ten years, our efforts represented more of a commitment to compliance rather than a way of collaboration. As the building leadership challenged the staff to reproportion their thinking regarding the rationale, structure, and purpose regarding the true qualities of a PLC in the first place, they simultaneously initiated an immense investment in human capital, sending groups of teacher teams to more deeply explore the tenants of PLCs, High Reliability Schools, and began work to assess our current reality regarding these processes through the HRS lens of Level 1. These efforts yielded a momentum in the building with a deeper understanding of high functioning PLC processes in each department. Further restructures in how time was organized in the day, scheduling, and continued professional development materialized as a direct result of this work.
After NHS sent a team to the HRS Summit in 2022 and the PLC-at-Work Conference in St. Charles, MO that following summer, our teacher teams met during the last few weeks of the summer and continued to meet into the start of the school year during the already-embedded PLC time during late-start Wednesdays to identify the areas they felt would encourage and promote best practices for the remainder of the year. This resulted in a commitment to abandon “PLC Lite” practices and begin implementing the systems that were proven to work. Since 2019, NHS has directed attention toward enhancing best practices under the “Four Pillars for Success”: School Culture, PLC Tight, RTI, and College/Career Readiness.
With the new building leadership pressing forward with those “Four Pillars”: School Culture, PLCs, RTI, and College/Career Readiness, the framework of the 4 PLC questions provided essential guidance for how each of those pillars can optimally contribute to success at NHS. For instance, a deep analysis of Questions 1-4 of the PLC process facilitated the overhaul of the RTI system. Whereas we had previously neglected tenants of Questions 3 & 4 in our old RTI approach, this was rectified by the introduction of “RTI,” “Open,” and “Closed” Rooms in our new system, empowering teachers to offer both remediation and enrichment more strategically. Of course, to arrive at that stage required intense focus on the first two PLC questions, thereby resulting in a continuous improvement effort aimed at reassessing not only priority standards, but the assessments which measure the extent to which students have mastered them (i.e., Question #2 of the PLC process). With better and more frequent common assessments in place, the new RTI system has so far proven to be a tremendous success, with continued monitoring in place to refine the system throughout the 2023-24 school year.
In the following years, teacher teams have attended additional Solution Tree professional development sessions as they worked to bring highly effective practices back to NHS with the aim of refining our current systems in the Four Pillars referenced above. Recently, NHS has undergone a complete overhaul of several systems including teaching protocols when working with teacher teams and students, as well as an RTI (Response to Intervention) team which completely reframed the high school’s RTI purpose, structure, and logistics. A derivative of this work manifested in the form of more intentionally aligned assessments which were generated in each of the four core departments as a means of starting to implement a guaranteed and viable curriculum and embedding more intentionality when selecting students for RTI (PRIDE) Time at NHS. The Neosho School District realigned our mission, vision, and values at the onset of the 2019-20 school year; accordingly, our building used those as a catalyst for work to focus on our next steps.
Mission: We prepare the youth of our community to be people who are intelligent, driven, and make lives better for those around them.
Vision: Prepare students to be a workforce that will grow the region, and make Neosho School District the district of choice in Southwest Missouri.
The 5th year with the current building administration has seen more of an emphasis on fine tuning and measuring those four core pillars as they support the district’s mission and vision statements, rather than focusing on building or reconstructing them. Undoubtedly, the PLC process as well as the four questions contained therein drive much of the refinement work within those systems. For instance, in March 2023, NHS hosted its first “College and Career Readiness Day” where all 9th grade students took the Pre-ACT 8/9, all 10th grade students took the Pre-ACT, 11th & 12th graders who wished to take the ACT had the opportunity to do so on-site, while all other seniors were hosted by a local college for a campus tour. When viewed through the lens of the “Four Pillars for Success,” this day provided not only an opportunity to offer an externally validated benchmark for assessing student academic achievement, but also met the needs of students preparing to enter the postsecondary world. Data generated from the Pre-ACT 8/9, Pre-ACT, and ACT were analyzed in small data groups prior to the start of the 2023-24 school year with the goal of identifying areas of strength and opportunities for growth in this one realm.
Another initiative which has supported the Four Pillars approach at NHS has been the introduction of Instructional Rounds. At the start of the 2023-24 school year, NHS implemented one instructional round per semester so our teachers could learn from the expertise of others already on our team. A round consists of two 10-minute observations and a twenty-minute debrief led by our instructional coach. Rounds are scheduled during teacher plan time and include groups of 3-4 teachers observing their peers. Our first cycle will focus on identifying the elements found in the NHS MOI, a collaboratively created instructional model based on the Marzano work The New Art and Science of Teaching. These instructional rounds offer our team members professional development on the Elements from the New Art and Science of Teaching in action that lead to greater student learning through improved teacher effectiveness.
1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.
Departments at NHS begin each year by reviewing the essential standards for their content area, unpacking those standards, and reviewing their proposed pacing guides in a focused PLC setting. Each department collaboratively establishes the threshold for proficiency pertaining to student mastery of standards, and most teams have multiple common formative assessments for each learning target. Several departments (Social Studies and Math) have recently overhauled their priority standards, whereupon they have focused their attention to ensure their common assessments now reflect the proportionate time spent on the updated standards. Additional work through Missouri’s DCI supported professional development has greatly helped our building in facilitating this revamp.
Furthermore, our Math Department utilizes professional development through Math at Work and also receives coaching for assessment alignment through Missouri’s District Continuous Improvement coaching through DCI training. The addition of a math specialist as a part-time Instructional Coach at NHS has assisted in this endeavor. Data generated from the Pre-ACT and ACT tests offered in the Spring 2023 semester as well as state EOCs during the same timeframe, provided additional information for departments to triangulate and truly discern the extent to which certain topics and standards were pointing toward similar trends.
Alongside their own departmental common formative assessments, these external assessments allowed teacher teams to look for crossover to see if the data were truly “saying the same things.” To generate actionable next steps after receiving this student data, all four core departments spent time in the late summer taking a deep dive with peer members from their department, administrators, and the building’s Instructional Coach to analyze patterns, trends, and areas of both strength and growth throughout all of these assessments. When the school year began in August, these trends were shared department-wide, and a reflection question on a standardized data analysis protocol allowed their colleagues to consider how they would not only use this data to guide their future instruction for the ensuing school year, but enhance their own professional practice, as well. Broadly speaking, teachers reported the insight gleaned from these sensemaking activities to yield tremendous value in helping them forge logical modifications to pacing guides, assessment questions, and instructional practice for the upcoming school year.
The Neosho School District builds full professional development days into our calendar, whereupon PLC teams meet to receive coaching in any number of high-leverage practices during their content-specific times. Teachers also use this time to compare data from common assessments, align instruction, modify instruction based upon trends in data, select students for an RTI cycle, or even to collaboratively write the common assessments with members of their team. Guided by the four core PLC questions, these Monday in-service days offer teachers a full day of collaboration and a multitude of actions proven to be highly effective.
2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.
NHS has taken a variety of steps to ensure high-quality intervention time for students who have not yet mastered the content. Time is built into the master schedule for Pride (Personal Responsibility in Daily Efforts) Time to occur. At the onset of the 2023-24 school year, a reform committee composed of members from each core area as well as multiple elective departments at NHS initiated a new RTI time rooted in best practices learned through a Solution Tree “RTI at Work” conference they attended in Rogers, AR.
Whereas the previous RTI system in place at NHS placed the intervention time at the beginning of the day and allowed certain students the option to not attend primarily based upon grades, the new system places students based upon proficiency in certain course learning targets. Modifying the time from the beginning of the day to just after 2nd hour (9:45 am) moreover eliminated one of the most troublesome issues the building experienced wherein large numbers of students were simply not showing up to Pride Time. For the duration of the 2022-23 school year, the RTI Reform Committee met each Wednesday morning at 7:00 am to discuss potential applicability of these changes, logistics, how the requesting systems would work, and stakeholder buy-in. Initial plans were shared with NHS faculty in the Spring of 2023, with full implementation at the start of the following school year.
Given the wide ranging implications for all teachers in the building, the committee continued meeting to gather feedback, evaluate progress, and remediate issues throughout the Fall 2023 semester. As a result of these sustained meetings, teachers were enabled to bring forth suggestions and ideas for continual improvement of this new system, thereby sustaining shared leadership and long-term buy-in for a new system.
As an added refinement of completely transforming the scope and purpose of RTI at NHS, departments were inherently tasked with ensuring high levels of learning for all students through the formation of additional common assessments. Once again framed in the four core questions of a PLC, teachers could more accurately target students needed for interventions, but also make plans for how that intervention would be carried out. Moreover, the often neglected Question #4 received a greater deal of attention, since students who required no intervention could choose from any number of “Open Rooms,” or enrichment activities germane to specific courses (i.e., more advanced Chemistry labs, time in the Ag Mechanics shop to work, or advanced art techniques, painting, and design).
Since teachers are now selecting students for RTI based upon proficiency in learning targets as measured through common assessment data (rather than solely grades), this compelled teachers to have a clearer idea of where students actually were in the learning progression more frequently and with more clarity. Departments worked in their PLC time to reconceptualize their idea of assessments, with shorter, less intrusive assessments which generated quicker data now given with more regularity as opposed to waiting until the midway (or longer) point of a unit.
3. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.
NHS took several steps in order to build teacher capacity to work as members of high-performing teams. Adhering to the best practices offered in Learning by Doing (DuFour, et al., 2016), we started by establishing collective commitments and norms so all teachers have a voice and teams can default to them when focus might veer off of the work of the PLC. Because our staff included faculty members who have been involved in the PLC process for several years, some who were completely new to our system at NHS, and some who have never been a member of a PLC before, this essential first step helped establish the foundation for a successful collaborative time built around the four core questions. Once the foundation was established, agendas that focused on the four core questions were implemented.
Recently, NHS made a substantial PD investment in sending a large teacher team to Adaptive Schools training to build their facilitation skills and provide strategies they might use in the classroom, in a PLC, or in another meeting of professionals.
With NHS implementing their collaboratively generated Model of Instruction at the start of the 2023-23 school year, each teacher has selected one element to evaluate and measure as a part of their growth plan. Teachers began by attending a session with Mario Acosta during one of the aforementioned embedded PD days, where after deepening their knowledge about the structural components of our MOI, they self-rated on each element using the Marzano rubrics. We encouraged teachers to discuss their choices in a PLC session, and many teachers requested time in their PLC to actually carry out the self-rating. PLCs continue to be an area of emphasis for NHS not only as a means of addressing the four core questions, but also to unify conversations about other integral building initiatives seeking to promote student growth such as RTI and our MOI. Finally, PLCs often serve as the vehicle through which these collaborative discussions all materialize in a setting of true professionals.
Achievement Data Files
Additional Achievement Data
Due in large part to the sustained efforts at fine tuning PLC processes, more deeply aligning work to the four core questions, and using the PLC system as a basis for reforming the RTI system at NHS, student achievement has witnessed growth commensurate with such inputs.
Nowhere has the data revealed an upward trend more resoundingly than in the ACT from 2021-23. As a result of the RTI system overhaul as well as the data driven decisions based upon trends gleaned from student scores in the Pre-ACT 8/9, Pre-ACT, and ACT, teachers have been more strategic about instructional choices designed to close gaps and promote or sustain high levels of achievement. Paired with their data from common formative assessments and an RTI system which now necessitates the selection of students for intervention based upon said data, student success has increased steadily. Additionally, the implementation in the 2023-24 school year of an “ACT Bootcamp” during PRIDE Time has further addressed Question #4 of the PLC process by offering an enrichment activity for those students seeking to take the ACT.
Moreover, scores in certain EOC tested subjects have also experienced three years’ of sustained growth–namely in the Biology I assessment. The Science department has embraced the tenants of the PLC process with particular attentiveness toward breaking apart skills and standards assessed on the statewide EOC, then ensuring their pacing guides reflect proportionate time spent on those standards. While 2022 experienced a bit of a dip in some subjects due to orienting a slightly higher number of new staff toward more “PLC Tight” practices, the same scores rebounded in percentages of “Advanced + Proficient” students exceeding those in 2021 as well as the percentages of “Basic + Below Basic” students declining between 2021 and 2023 during that same timeframe. Comparisons with the state of Missouri dating back to 2019 continue to show Neosho High School exceeding state averages in a variety of EOC tested subjects.
Recognized by Missouri's DCI initiative as an exemplary PLC school.
Multiple teachers with awards or recognition in content or domain specific fields such as extra and co-curriculars, music/band, speech and debate, athletics, etc.